By: BISI DOSUMU
It goes without saying that Manchester United’s problems this season lay in defence. The attack is widely considered one of the strongest in world football, while a new look midfield of Angel Di Maria, Ander Herrera and Daley Blind impressed together for the first time in the 4-0 thumping of QPR. At the back, though, Jonny Evans, Chris Smalling, Tyler Blackett and, to a lesser extent, Phil Jones have all underwhelmed under Louis van Gaal.
Marcos Rojo was not a first-choice signing for the Dutchman and the Argentine is not the leader United so desperately need in the wake of the departures of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic. Despite the transfer window closing at the beginning of the month, the former Premier League champions are still being linked with a big money move for a new centre-back. The latest to reportedly be on United’s radar is former Old Trafford defender Gerard Pique.
The Spaniard has made four competitive appearances this season, with his WhoScored.com rating in both the league and Champions League sitting at a respectable 7.51. Of all United centre-backs, only Jones (8.02) is outperforming the Barcelona star this term. Without question, a player of Pique’s quality would significantly strengthen United’s defence.
Experience at the back is necessary for any team and Pique would undeniably bring this to Old Trafford. The 27-year-old has been a mainstay, injuries aside, in the Barcelona backline since re-joining in 2008 and played a big role in their dominance in Spain and Europe during Pep Guardiola’s reign. A succession of niggling injuries has limited his impact in recent months, but Pique remains widely regarded as one of the best defenders in Europe.
In his four appearances this season, the experienced centre-back has averaged an impressive five tackles and interceptions per-game. Despite Barcelona’s strength in La Liga and in the 1-0 Champions League win over APOEL, Pique has excelled when called on. Barcelona may have controlled proceedings, but on the rare occasions the opposition has the ball, he has shown the ability to limit the danger on his goal.
Of all United players, only Jones (nine) is averaging more tackles and interceptions per-game than Pique, though the England international’s rash approach means a more calming influence at the heart of the backline is a necessity. Boasting a WhoScored.com strength of ‘concentration’, Pique’s leadership qualities would certainly improve United’s defence.
With an impressive pass success rate (92.9%) in the league, Pique would be able to match United’s statistically calculated styles of play of ‘short passes’ and ‘possession football’, a crucial asset for a team that strives to instigate attacks from defence. A composing and authoritative figure, United would be wise to take up the opportunity to sign Pique should it present itself.
United spent more than any other team in the summer transfer window, but a failure to really strengthen at the back could come back to haunt them. Once January rolls around, they will have the chance to dip into the market to bring in defensive reinforcements and if Barcelona are seriously considering offers for Pique, the Manchester giants would be wise to make a move for their former defender